- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2015

In preparation for some scary viewing sessions as Halloween approaches, here’s some suggestions of movies recently released in the Blu-ray format sure to set the macabre mood.

Army of Darkness: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, rated R, $34.99) — The reluctant hero Ash Williams (actor Bruce Campbell) loaded up his sawed-off shotgun and sported a new mechanical hand as he returned to smite an army of demonic Deadites back in 14th century in director Sam Raimi’s humorous and action-packed 1992 horror film.

Hard-core fans get four versions of the cult favorite in the 3-disk set — a theatrical cut, director’s cut (new to Blu-ray with roughly 15 minutes of extra footage), international cut (boasting a new 4k digital scan) and television cut.

Other than the standard-definition TV version, viewers should watch each to re-appreciate the energy of the performers, corny special effects, slapstick humor and overtly gross moments. “Army of Darkness” is, without a doubt, a yearly Halloween classic.

Frightening extras: A new and very fun 96-minute documentary on the making of the film leads the excellent collection of supplements. It features interviews with many of the cast and crew including Mr. Campbell, Academy Award-winning editor Bob Murawski and special-effect artist Greg Nicotero (of “The Walking Dead” fame).

Fans will also love an optional commentary track with Mr. Raimi, Mr. Campbell and writer Ivan Raimi; roughly 90 minutes of video journal footage from the shoot; deleted scenes; and multiple photo galleries highlighting props, make-up effects and production design.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, $19.99) — Director Francis Ford Coppola’s stylish and faithful 1992 adaptation of Stoker’s famed vampire novel gets a beautiful 4k restoration with Dolby Atmos sound to mesmerize viewers looking for an evening of horror and blood-sucking seduction.

The action is powered by performances from Gary Oldman as the Transylvanian Count, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Anthony Hopkins as the relentless Professor Abraham Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the insane R.M. Renfield. The over 2-hour-long epic also features dazzling design, use of shadows and a version of Dracula as a man bat that will cause a mass outbreak of goose bumps.

Frightening extras: The veritable feast of production information includes a pair of optional commentary tracks from Mr. Coppola (a new one with Mr. Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom); an introduction by the director; an almost hour-long, new interview with Mr. Coppola (also joined by his son Roman); and another 1.5 hours of features and deleted scenes culled from a previous Blu-ray release.

Jurassic World (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $34.98) — Though not a traditional horror film, the latest addition to the “Jurassic Park” cinema franchise certainly qualifies as one of the scariest movies of the year, thanks to the presence of a biologically engineered, killing machine dinosaur called the Indominus Rex.

Its escape into a theme park filled with juicy tourists and less-aggressive brethren and offers a blockbuster’s worth of suspenseful action twinned with the most amazing-looking dinosaurs ever seen on the big screen. Chris Pratt stars as a Velociraptor expert, and Bryce Dallas Howard co-stars as the park’s operation manager who attempts to survive and stop the bloodthirsty hybrid.

Frightening extras: Roughly an hour’s worth of featurettes offer an informative overview of the production highlighted by 16 minutes covering visual effects and the new technologies used to bring dinosaur and human closer together on screen.

I also enjoyed Mr. Pratt and director Colin Trevorrow tossing questions to each other about the original film, “Jurassic World’s” epic scenes and the actor’s taped premonition that he would one-day star in a “Jurassic Park” movie.

Horror Classics Collection, Volume 1 (Warner Home Video, Not Rated, $54.96) — Viewers get just a glimpse of the macabre magic created by Hammer Film Productions, the gothic horror powerhouse of the 1950s to 1970s, in this four-film set.

The titles — ” Taste the Blood of Dracula” (1970); “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” (1968); “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” (1969); and “The Mummy” (1959) — arrive remastered in high-definition from 2K scans.

These films combine some classic movie monsters and atmospheric cinematography with legendary performances from Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, staples of the Hammer acting crew.

Horror enthusiasts will loved Mr. Lee in the role of the legendary vampire and Mr. Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein. However, my favorite of the collection finds Mr. Lee wrapped in those ancient Egyptian burial bandages and on a tear across the Victorian England countryside to avenge the desecration of the tomb of his beloved Princess Ananka. Now of course, Mr. Cushing co-stars as the archeologist that the Mummy is looking to eliminate.

Frightening extras: Most terrifying of the set is the total lack of bonus content. No documentary on Hammer, no featurettes on Mr. Lee or Mr. Cushing, no optional commentary track with a film historian, nothing. The films are a great addition to a collection, but the bloodthirsty mob of Blu-ray enthusiasts demand more.

Christine (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, $19.99) — Stephen King’s homicidal 1958 Plymouth Fury came to startling cinematic life back in 1983 courtesy of famed “Halloween” director John Carpenter. The film makes its debut on Blu-ray and offers a perfect Halloween treat for those looking for a night of adolescent-themed, supernatural thrills.

The saga of nerdish boy Arnold Cunnigham rebuilding his dream car, which happens to be possessed by evil, offers few gory or horrifying moments but shines as Christine takes a beating but keeps rebuilding itself.

The most shocking parts of the film are not the fiery red vehicle exterminating enemies but the amount of profanity spewed by both the high school students and adults.

Frightening extras: Fans get a mandatory commentary track — culled from a previous DVD release about a decade ago — with Mr. Carpenter and Keith Gordon (the actor who played Arnold) chatting about at their cult classic.

Also included are 50-minutes worth of featurettes from the previous release with interviews of the cast and crew as they fondly remember the filmmaking process. One even mentions the fact that Kevin Bacon was offered the role of Arnold but decided on the “Footloose” lead, instead.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 40th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Unrated, $34.99)Halloween fans looking for an evening of song and campy ribald humor get a heavy-duty dose from creator Richard O’Brien and director Jim Sharman’s riff on the “Frankenstein” saga.

The strange tale offers naïve humans Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) stumbling into a bizarre castle and surviving an encounter with the mad scientist from Transexual Transylvania, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (outrageously played by a young Tim Curry) and his twisted minions.

A brand new digital remaster and clean up from the original negative dazzles on home-entertainment screens, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track allows for the appreciation of such odd songs as “Dammit Janet”; “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul”; “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me”;  and “The Time Warp.”

Of course, this cult film staple turned movie theaters in artistic battle zones during midnight viewings in the late 1970s, as audiences talked back to the screen, performed along with the action and threw objects at the screen when appropriate.

Frightening extras: Bodacious bonus features allow virgins of “The Rocky Horror” movie to virtually experience the interactive fun using a pop-up trivia track, pop-up call back track (what to say over the corny dialogue), prop box (use the Blu-ray controller to throw stuff when prompted) and a picture-in-picture shadowcast presenting normal humans acting out the onscreen characters’ performances.

Hard-core fans will also appreciate the optional commentary track with Riff Raff (Mr. Obrien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn) along with both U.S. and U.K. versions of the film.

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